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Amendment XXV, Biden, Harris, and Congress



Precursor to Amendment XXV - LBJ swearing in as blood-splattered Jackie looks on

Joe Biden makes gaffe after gaffe that call into question his independence of thought and his cognitive ability. Some of the things he says make no sense; others make him sound like a loose cannon on the gundeck. Naturally this has fueled speculation that Kamala Harris intends to invoke Amendment XXV to become Acting President in his place. Some, including CNAV contributor Linda Goudsmit, say she intended this all along. Herewith an analysis of whether Vice-President Harris could do it and what it would involve. As readers will see, Congress – and more particularly the House and Senate Republican Conferences – would likely play a pivotal role.

Joe Biden – a case history of cognitive impairment

Your editor/publisher, as regular readers know, holds the degree of Doctor of Medicine. A medical degree today includes core concepts in clinical psychiatry. These concepts include how to recognize, and (differentially) diagnose, dementia.

Have a look at Joe Biden. He exhibits the following symptoms:

Word salad. Psychiatrists use this label for someone who stumbles over his words. Tucker Carlson’s team charged that, on 22 July, Biden stumbled over his words for forty seconds.

The last person to ramble on so incoherently was Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.). And even he, in his worst moments, never gave the country a display this embarrassing.


Inappropriate references. Why, when discussing police funding (or defunding), did the President suddenly change the subject? And to what did he change the subject? “Are there people in the Republican Party who think we’re sucking the blood out of kids?” What was that all about?

This is a prize example of a “loose cannon on the gundeck” comment. The liberal apologists masquerading as fact-checkers at frantically issued a denial that any such activity took place. Their problem: until Joe Biden said it out loud, relatively few people in this country ever gave it a thought. Why risk providing fodder for “conspiracy theories”? Whoever writes his script must have torn his hair out in hanks after hearing those words.

These kinds of things give the best evidence that Joe Biden cannot discharge the powers and duties of his office.

So what does Amendment XXV say?

Immediately after Vice-President Lyndon Baines Johnson took the oath of Presidential office, with a blood-spattered Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy by his side, Congress turned at once to draft a comprehensive Constitutional amendment to cover contingencies of Presidential succession. The only thing the Constitution had said about Presidential succession was (Article II Section 1 Clause 6):

In Case of the Removal of the President from Office, or of his Death, Resignation, or Inability to discharge the Powers and Duties of the said Office, the Same shall devolve on the Vice President, and the Congress may by Law provide for the Case of Removal, Death, Resignation or Inability, both of the President and Vice President, declaring what Officer shall then act as President, and such Officer shall act accordingly, until the Disability be removed, or a President shall be elected.

Congress did “by law [so] provide” with the Presidential Succession Act of 1947. But this time Congress wished to do more. Heretofore, Vice-Presidents always became Presidents under those circumstances. But what would happen in the absence of a Vice-President? And who determines Presidential inability?


Amendment XXV has four distinct Sections, each attempting to answer all these questions.

Specific sections of Amendment XXV and what they do

Section 1 is the simplest of all. If Congress removes a President, or a President dies or resigns, the Vice-President becomes President.

But that immediately creates a vacancy in the office of Vice-President. Worse, the office might fall vacant for another reason. So Section 2 instructs a President to nominate a Vice-President in that case. In contrast to “ambassadors, other foreign ministers, and consuls, justices of the Supreme Court,” et al., Vice-President-designates require confirmation by both chambers of Congress.

To date, only two Presidents have nominated Vice-Presidents to fill such vacancies. Richard M. Nixon did so when Spiro T. Agnew resigned. Then, ironically, Nixon resigned – and his appointee, Gerald R. Ford, became President. He, of course, nominated yet another Vice-President, former Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller (R-N.Y.).

Turning now to Presidential inability, a President now can always ask for a medical leave. He writes a letter to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives. In it he says he cannot “discharge the powers and duties of his office.” The Vice-President then takes over until the President revokes his declaration.


But what happens when a President can’t do his job, but won’t acknowledge that? That triggers Section 4, to which we now turn.

Section 4 – the mechanism

First, the Vice-President would write her own letter to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives. In it she would say that the President can’t do his job. To give her letter legal weight, she needs the majority of the Cabinet to sign off on it. This Section also lets Congress “by law provide” for another body to judge specifically the ability of the President to do his job. Representative Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) introduced such a bill in the last Congress. (“This is not about President Trump,” Nancy Pelosi said then. And she was correct in a way few then suspected. Contributor Linda Goudsmit was one of them.) But nothing ever came of it.

In any event: once such a letter reaches these two Constitutional officers, the Vice-President becomes Acting President.

But does she stay that way?

The President may at any time contest this declaration. Once he does, the Vice-President and a majority of either Cabinet or “Raskin Commission” have four days to double down. And if they do, Congress must then decide.


Congress, if out of session, would have forty-eight hours to assemble. Then Congress would have twenty-four hours to sustain the Vice-President’s declaration. And Congress would have to do so by a vote of two-thirds of the full membership of each chamber.

Biden’s people suspect Harris of an Amendment XXV coup attempt

Relations between Presidential and Vice-Presidential staff are already showing much strain. A “defector” from Biden’s staff accused his former fellows of “sabotage” against Harris. He said this after this report came out showing serious infighting among Harris’ staff. In fact the strain had showed as early as February. But now the strain is clearly worsening.

Why should it? Because everyone in official Washington who cares to know, knows that Kamala Harris has been “measuring the draperies” since the Inauguration. And, according to our own Linda Goudsmit, for longer than that.

So we can assume that:

  1. Vice-President Harris does want to become Acting President through Amendment XXV,
  2. Biden’s staff knows this, and
  3. Biden’s employees don’t want to become the staff of a figurehead President.

For these reasons, CNAV will assume that the minute Vice-President Harris writes her letter and gets most of the Cabinet to sign on to it, Biden will contest it. Someone – maybe “Doctor Jill,” his wife (a doctor of education, not of medicine)– will draft the letter, place it before Biden, place a pen in his hand, and say, “Sign.” And he’ll sign.

Again, the minute he does, Harris and her Cabinet majority will double down. It’s too late for a Raskin Commission; Congress hasn’t done a thing about Raskin’s bill in this session. So it’s the Cabinet. And when they double down, they involve the Congress.


What will the Congress do?

We cannot even assume that Harris would enjoy the unquestioned loyalty of the House and Senate Democratic Conferences. Few have discussed – in public – how many friends Harris has on Capitol Hill. So the debate among Democrats on the Hill would center on two questions:

  1. Does Harris have a legitimate case that Biden can’t do the Presidential job? And:
  2. Would they rather deal with President Biden or with an Acting President Harris?

The House and Senate Republican Conferences would face the same questions. And the second question would loom larger than the first in their minds. Maybe they would rather deal with a senile dotard than with a power-hungry tyrant. They might also conclude that the power-hungry tyrant, having (perhaps) greater intelligence and the ability to use it logically, would pose a greater danger to them and the country.

CNAV agrees with this view. Jim Geraghty, two years ago, offered this list of key utterances and actions by Harris. From this list one can infer that she has no sympathy for the victims of actual crime, and wants to disarm the populace.

But Kamala Harris is not the only woman in official Washington with a reputation for abusing her staff. “Doctor Jill” has a nearly identical reputation. And if Congress controverts Harris (by failing to get the two-thirds to sustain her), Jill Biden becomes the de facto acting President. (Ellen Bolling Galt Wilson, move over.) So Republicans might hold themselves damned if they sustain, and damned if they controvert.

Amendment XXV – no clear answer

So we cannot predict the eventual outcome if Vice-President Harris attempts an Amendment XXV coup. That outcome depends on the Congress – and Congress has every reason to be volatile. We know only that this is a power struggle between two equally vindictive women. (Unless George Soros has infiltrated either woman’s staff in ways we cannot predict.) Whichever woman wins, will viciously attack all who voted against her in Congress. Every Democrat in Congress surely knows this, and will calculate accordingly.

A Republican mightn’t give an unripe fig. Almost all Democrats behave as though they consider all Republicans “enemies of the State.” Only a RINO would care whether he will offend Harris or “Doctor Jill.” One more reason to hate them, more or less, will make no difference to true patriots among them.


Less clear is exactly where one’s patriotic duty lies. Since the public policy prescriptions from Harris and “Doctor Jill” are virtually identical, all that matters are the:

  • Competency, and
  • Cleverness

of each woman.

But one thing would preclude all this drama. If Joe Biden dies, Kamala Harris becomes President. So maybe “Doctor Jill” need fear, not a Congressional tussle, but a more immediate threat.

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Terry A. Hurlbut has been a student of politics, philosophy, and science for more than 35 years. He is a graduate of Yale College and has served as a physician-level laboratory administrator in a 250-bed community hospital. He also is a serious student of the Bible, is conversant in its two primary original languages, and has followed the creation-science movement closely since 1993.

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